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Music And Dance Together In Seventeenth-Century France

The majority of Jacques Champion de Chambonnieres’ music consists of dance music for harpsichord with about half being courantes, a dance in a fast triple meter. Chambonnieres worked at the Parisian court during a time when all court members were expected to know how to dance. Ballet and opera were one in the same during the tenure of composer Jean Baptiste Lully. Chambonnieres first danced at court for Louis XIII and later with the king’s son Louis XIV, also would be known as the “Sun king.” The emphasis on dance at the French court probably explains why this occupies 85% of Chambonnieres’ output.

Another characteristic of French harpsichord music is the use of improvisation and ornamentation above what may be printed on the page. Karen Flint takes this tradition to heart in her 2010 recording of harpsichord pieces in Le pieces de Clavessin on the Plectra label.

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